Many people lose themselves in the ordinary, daily activities that life brings us. The Industrial Revolution introduced key inventions that would conveniently increase our standard of living. Unfortunately, the vast majority of the population forgot the necessary survival skills that would enable them to live in the wilderness. Many people question the reasoning for learning survival skills in an industrial society. The answer lies on the television screen when disaster strikes, such as in the aftermath of a major hurricane, earthquake, tsunami, or even a dangerously interrupted camping trip. The odds are slim for surviving a car crash in the middle of nowhere without knowing how to build a fire, construct a primitive shelter, find food, tie knots, apply first aid, and navigate on foot. It still helps to know these basic survival skills even if none of these events happen to you.
The human body needs sufficient warmth to stay alive in frigid temperatures. Building a fire also produces light in a dark environment, which enables people to fend off predators. In addition, a fire serves to boil water and cook food. The chances of dying in the wilderness increase without effective fire-making skills. Aside from using a lighter or match, people can make fire using flint, bows, or other forms of friction. In addition to starting a fire, many methods exist for laying the wood for larger fires that produce more heat. Understanding the different ways to make a fire can save lives in the wilderness.
- United States Rescue and Operations Group: Learn to Make a Fire or Die in Place
- How to Start a Campfire Without Matches
- Ten Ways to Start a Fire
The human body can live for an extended period of time without food if it stays hydrated. Therefore, the first step to survival involves finding and purifying water. Many water purification techniques exist for surviving in the wild. One of the easiest forms of water purification involves boiling water over a hot fire, or using iodine to kill its contaminants. After securing a fresh water source, survivalists can start to look for food. Experienced survivalists know a handful of wild edible plants they could forage in the wild. Foraging for wild edible plants can take time and effort; however, it could mean the difference between death and survival. Some poisonous plants look deceptively close to their edible counterparts. As a result, it helps to know how to trap and snare animals to cook over the fire.
Many of us consider constructing primitive shelters as a daunting task; however, it only takes a couple of hours with the proper materials and mindset to get the job done. These structures range in difficulty from fairly easy to challenging for both the beginner and expert survivalist. Beginners can start with constructing debris huts to provide a warm, dry place to sleep at night. These simple structures should ideally sit closer to enlivened trees on elevated hilltops. Choosing a location near water or dead trees can prove disastrous if it starts to rain. It also leaves the shelter vulnerable to predators and other wildlife. Remember to construct shelter with enough room to roll around. A very large survival shelter lacks the ability to produce and retain warmth. Strive to make a sleeping bag from decomposable natural materials to get the most from the shelter.
- Shelter and Its Importance for Survival
- AAA Wilderness Survival: Finding and Building Shelter
- Bushcraft and Wilderness Skills: Shelter
- At Home In The Wilderness Part I: Shelter
Before preparing for a camping trip, it helps to know first aid techniques to survive in the wilderness with sustained injuries. First aid can help save lives in the event somebody breaks their arm, sprains their ankle, suffers a heart attack, or undergoes hypothermia. Prepare a safety plan listing incidents that could go wrong while out in the wilderness. In addition, take a certified first aid course that addresses the necessary steps to take if these incidents occur while hiking in a natural setting. It also helps to create a safety plan consisting of escape routes, communication signals, and ways of seeking help.
- First Aid Skills Checklist (PDF)
- Safety Tips – Outdoor First Aid Essentials
- Introduction to Outdoor Leadership Skills: First Aid (PDF)
- Burn First Aid (PDF)
Most people glance over the importance of tying knots when living in the wilderness. Tying knots is an invaluable skill that enables people to make shelters, weapons, and other structures. Beginners may feel overwhelmed by the vast amount of knots available to create objects. Fortunately, there are a few basic knots for camping and wilderness survival, such as the square knot, clove hitch, and bowline. Mastering these three basic knot tying strategies can help anyone survive in the wild.
- BackPacker: Survival Skills 101: Knots to Know (PDF)
- Instructables: How to Tie Various Knots
- Animated Knots: Lashings
When to Use Knots and Lashings (PDF)
- Tripod Lashing (PDF)
- Graves’ Bushcraft Books: 06. Knots & Lashings
The ultimate goal to surviving in the wild is to make it back to civilization to tell about the experience. Failure to know how to navigate to safer locations can result in death. Getting lost in the wilderness can prove disastrous, especially if an individual or group’s movements lead them to predators or uninhabitable land. Most people navigate from one place to another using a map and compass. These invaluable instruments can accurately direct individuals to their desired location. Knowing how to use these instruments, instead of relying on digital GPS systems can truly be a life saver.
- Navigation With Map and Compass
- How to Use a Compass
- Navigation Basics: Map and Compass
- How to Navigate in the Wilderness with a Map and Compass
- Celestial Navigation Basics
- Celestial Navigation for the Clueless (PDF)